From a t-shirt design on the Ku Klux Klan website

Amy Wilentz, “Racist Suspect,” learned something new on the radio yesterday. Actually, a few new things.


Don’t trust people who say they want “the truth,” especially when they are posing as journalists! Real reporters are never so arrogant. Also never trust a radio show that airs for two hours consecutively.


There are people who believe I am a white supremacist, a spy, and a sexual imperialist.

So yesterday I appeared as a guest on a show on something called “Justice Radio” — or that’s what I was told it was called in various emails. I was interviewed by someone who called himself Gus Lawrence in his emails to me but who calls himself Gus T Renegade on the Black Talk Radio Network (sorry, I’m not linking; but it won’t be hard to find).

Here’s how Gus T described me on his show’s site:

The Context of White Supremacy [COWS; it’s the name of his show, it turns out] welcomes Racist Suspect, Amy Wilentz … She’s written extensively on the area of the world known as Haiti. We’ll discuss her 2013 publication, Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti. Somehow the 8th area of people activity becomes a dominant theme in this narrative. Amputated limbs, tens of thousands of earthquake victims, centuries of White Supremacist meddling and even Sean Penn, somehow become analogous to sexual intercourse. White people always find a way to make their contact with Victims of Racism a pornographic sewer; the whole world as the White Man’s {and White Woman’s} brothel

Yes, incomprehensible, I agree. “The 8th area of people activity,” indeed.

Having been on the show, however, I now have an inkling of what Gus T could possibly mean by all this.

There’s a section in my book where I write about a theoretical American reader of a photo book called Haiti: Tragedy and Hope, that was put out by Time, Inc. Books in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. I describe this theoretical reader as sitting in his comfortable living room and looking at pictures of earthquake victims that I describe as virtually “pornographic” —and his interest similarly. In the section, I’m critical of what I see as the cynical use of tragic images to make money, and I also point out that when I write about Haiti, in a way I’m doing the same thing.

So Gus T misread the section. I will say this: unlike most of the callers-in to the show, and unlike many interviewers I’ve dealt with, Gus T had at least read the book. But every section he quoted at me, he had misread and misunderstood. What I criticized, he thought I endorsed. I would assert that it was a willful misreading, but I don’t think that’s the case.

It’s just that like most ideologues and all thought police, Gus T is singularly post-ironic.

Anyway, I was richly accused by callers-in of being a racist and white supremacist, which is something that I have always associated with George Corley Wallace and the Ku Klux Klan, having grown up during the Civil Rights movement.

But that’s not what white supremacy means today. There’s a broader way of describing it.

Here’s a quote from University of Tennessee law professor emeritus Frances Lee Ansley:

By “white supremacy” I do not mean to allude to the self-conscious racism of white supremacist hate groups. I refer instead to a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily re-enacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.

This is not exactly the active white supremacy Gus T described on the show: spreading white supremacy and dominance “throughout the universe.” However, Dr. Ansley’s description so accurately conveys what Haiti has been like since the earthquake, and so succinctly conveys the subject matter and argument of my book, that I had to do a double take when I read it.

I was also told by Gus T and the callers that I had too much access to US publications, and I should get out of the way so Haitians could publish pieces on Haiti in American papers and magazines — this is in fact something I’ve been thinking about, and this blog that you’re reading lets me write about Haiti without taking up print real-estate.

Go, English-speaking Haitian writers and reporters: the field is yours!

Anyway, the show gave me ample fodder for thought. Gus T and another caller pointed out that although I had castigated an important foreign institution for its information-gathering in Haiti, and had compared its work to spying in the old days, I too was an information-gatherer in Haiti.

I tried to explain that this is what reporters do, and that journalists explain the world they see to people who haven’t seen it, but my interlocutors were having none of it.

They asked me point blank if I was in the employ of any foreign intelligence agency. (They seriously used this language: “are you now or have you ever been…”) They also wanted to know if I’d ever had sex with a Haitian, and also how much did I get for my book. Geez. And all these questions were asked in that post-ironic way: as if I would certainly respond truthfully.

Let’s put it this way, it was an interesting. uncomfortable, slightly insane but useful two hours —  and I’m really glad it’s over.

PS I had to hang up on them, because at 2 hours and five minutes, they were still having such a good time I could see they’d never let me go!

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